Just in case you made the same mistake I did upon reading the initial headline, allow me to put your mind at ease. Multiple award-winning actress Dame Angela Lansbury has not been accused of sexually harassing or assaulting anyone. She did, however, get in a spot of trouble recently when she decided to weigh in on the subject. During a radio interview in the UK, Lansbury seemed to suggest that some women bear partial responsibility if they are harassed or assaulted because they put so much time and effort into looking attractive. (Radio Times)
“There are two sides to this coin,” Ms. Lansburytold the U.K.’s Radio Times on Tuesday. “We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive. And unfortunately it has backfired on us — and this is where we are today.
“We must sometimes take blame, women,” she said. “I really do think that. Although it’s awful to say we can’t make ourselves look as attractive as possible without being knocked down and raped.”
Yeah… um… no. That’s not going to fly. Though to be fair, she did go on later in the interview to clearly say that nothing excuses assaulting a woman, so there was some nuance of sorts in her comments.
The predictable firestorm erupted immediately, with critics lambasting Lansbury over her “blame the woman” mentality. At least a few, however, tried to give her a pass because of her age. (She’s 92, after all.) Both of those types of responses seemed to infuriate the actress even further, leading her to take her complaints public. (Washington Times)
Ms. Lansbury on Wednesday scolded critics for misinterpreting her message and blaming her age.
“There is no excuse whatsoever for men to harass women in an abusive sexual manner. And, I am devastated that anyone should deem me capable of thinking otherwise,” she said in a statement. “Those who have known the quality of my work and the many public statements I have made over the course of my life, must know, that I am a strong supporter of Women’s Rights.
“Lastly, I would like to add that I am troubled by how quickly and brutishly some have taken my comments out of context and attempted to blame my generation, my age, or my mindset, without having read the entirety of what I said,” she said.
I’m fairly sure that most of us know by now that blaming women for being assaulted just because they work on looking good when going out in public rises to the level of criminal stupidity. But with that said, there is an aspect of Lansbury’s age involved here. I don’t mean that she’s suffering from some mental impairment with the onset of advanced age. I have never met her and have no idea whatsoever about her mental state. The woman could be sharp as a tack for all I know. Many seniors are.
But Lansbury is no doubt a product of the era she grew up in, as well as the society where she formed her earliest worldviews. Unfortunately, the idea that women were somehow “asking for it” was quite prevalent back in the day. She spent her childhood in a fairly upper-crust London neighborhood, later moving to New York City and then Hollywood. Views of women and their general culpability in, well… everything (going back to Eve and the serpent) were quite a bit different in the 40s, 50s and 60s, and would probably be seen as rather shocking to young people today.
It’s not hard to imagine that some of those sorts of attitudes are still knocking around in the back of Angela Lansbury’s mind. And yes, the woman is 92 years old. I’m not saying people need to endorse that message (obviously), but I think we can cut her a break just this one time. And besides, do we really want to tear down somebody who could turn a white raincoat into critical plot device?